The 18th century was a time of great economic, intellectual, and philosophical progress and innovation. One of the most well-known philosophical movements of that time, the Enlightenment, brought two great political currents: liberalism and socialism. The Age of Reason consequently also lead to other movements and reactionary ideologies such as fascism. Although fascism itself did not become a political ideology, its roots can trace back to the time of the Enlightenment, more specifically to a group known as the Counter Enlightenment. Today, fascism, one of the most totalitarian ideologies of the time, is not as popular as it was in the 19thand 20thcentury but continues to have some influence in small nations.
Fascism, a reactionary ideology, has roots dating backhundreds of years before even becoming a political ideology. The Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, did not sit well with some philosophers of the time. This diverse group of thinkers which included Johan Gottfried von Herder and Marquis de Sade, among others, rejected all or most of the leading views and ideas of the Enlightenment. The group became known as the Counter Enlightenment and claimed that most of the ideas of the Enlightenment, such as humanism, rationalism, and universalism, were fanciful and false. One major difference between fascism and the enlightenment ideologies is their stance on humanism. Liberals and socialists believe that there is a single, universal human nature that brings all humans together, regardless of their differences and that everyone is equal.
On the other hand, fascists believe that what defines humans is actually their differences. These deep-seated and sometimes permanent differences, such as race, gender, and nationality, cause humans to be locked in constant conflict with one another. Furthermore, fascists idolize the idea of elitism. They believe that a classless society of equals is impossible and that for a nation to be effective, power must rest in the hands of a small group or one person. This premisecan be seen most prominently in Italy under Mussolini. Although Mussolini claimed that the state had the power, he was the dictator, also known asIl Duce.